Cheers! We need each other.

by jacobjuncker

This message was offered at Wesley United Methodist Church (Culver, IN) on Sunday, January 20, 2012.

READINGS: Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, John 13:34-35, Matthew 5:13-16

Cheers first aired in 1982.  It’s a story about a bar where the owner, a former baseball star, Sam Malone and his friends—Coach, Carla, Woodie, Norm, Cliff, Dr. Frasier and all the other “regulars” come together to talk about their problems, laugh at each other’s flaws, and support one another in times of need.  Cheers is a place “where everybody knows your name…”

The sitcom aired for 11 seasons.  Its theme song has become one of the most recognized television songs of all time…do you remember it?

Over the next three weeks we’re going to be looking at different lines from the song.  This week, we’ll be tackling the first two lines: “Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got…”

Life ain’t easy.  More often than not it takes everything we’ve got just to make it—and sometimes that isn’t enough—which is why we need each other.  Let’s pray…

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Gracious God, in the moments to come, give me the words to speak and they the ears to hear, that together we might learn and be inspired to live your Word in the world starting today.  Amen.

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Norm walks into Cheers to a lively hello.  Paul, one of the regulars, asks, “Hey Norm, how’s the world been treating you?”  To which Norm replies, “Like a baby treats a diaper.”[1]

“Making your way in the world today takes everything you’ve got…”

There are times in each of our lives when we have pain and sorrow.  There are times when we are so exhausted, run down by the world, that we are weak and unable to carry the load on our backs.  There are times when it feels like the world in which we live is treating us like a baby treats a diaper.  There comes a time in each of our lives when “we all need somebody to lean on.”

We need each other.  “Two are better than one” (Ecclesiastes 4:9a, Common English Bible, emphasis added).

We need each other.  The United Methodist Book of Discipline—the book that spells out how we as United Methodists will live our lives together—says it beautifully.  As a community of Jesus followers we have an obligation, we are “bound in sacred covenant to shoulder the burdens, share the risks, and celebrate the joys of fellow members.”[2]  It’s not good enough for us to just put up with each other on Sunday morning.  We’re called to be a vital part of each others’ lives.

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We were created to be in community.  At the beginning,” when God began to create” (Genesis 1:1a, Jewish Publication Society).  God created Adam (the first human-being), placed him in the Garden of Eden, and “The LORD God said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone, I will make a fitting helper for him” (Genesis 2:18, Jewish Publication Society).  So God “formed out of the earth all the wild beasts and all the birds of the sky” (Genesis 2:19-20) and marched them before the man, but Adam was still lonely.  So, God created Eve, his wife to be his helper.

We were created to be in community.  Paul said it this way in Romans 12:4-5 (New Revised Standard Version), “For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.”[3]

We were created to be in community, but all too often our communities breakdown.  It happened with that very first community.  You remember the story, right?  Adam and Eve live a glorious life together.  God provides them with everything they need to flourish.  But, God has told them not to eat of a certain tree: the tree of knowledge of good and bad.  Eve is tempted by a walking serpent.  Giving into the serpents prodding, she takes the forbidden fruit and eats it (Genesis 3:6).  Historically, Eve has been given a bad rap.  She is often blamed for being the first one to succumb to temptation.  What we forget is that Adam was right there:

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate.[4]

The very first community failed.  Adam and Eve valued, they placed their appetites over their relationship with God. And, sin entered the world.

Sin is any thought, word, or deed that keeps us and others from growing in relationship with God and neighbor.  Sin is the antithesis of community.  Community draws people together and closer to God.  Sin drives people further from each other and further from God.

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Jesus was afraid that after his death his friends might pull apart.  He was afraid that once he left, the disciples would look out for their own interests and run away from each other.  So, he issued a new commandment.  This commandment was so important that Jesus, like a loving parent repeats himself three times.[5]  He needed the disciples to “get it” so that when the going got tough, they would remember this new command and cling to one another.  He said,

love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.[6]

In the other three gospels (c.f. Matthew 22:34-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28), we see a similar imperative.

The first [and greatest commandment] is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’  The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  There is no other commandment greater than these.

Throughout the Bible we learn that loving each other and loving God are “two sides of the same coin.  We cannot do one without the other.”[7]  Love—for God and each other—is supposed to guide and define us as a community of Jesus followers.  Note: it’s not all about studying the Bible or doing service project.  Those things are good and important, but we also have an obligation to get to know one another.  Therefore, “let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more”[8] as we continue the journey together.

We need each other.  We need to love one another.  And, in so doing we’ll not only grow closer to each other, we’ll grow closer to God.

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Some of you may be saying…”That’s great pastor, but that is the mark of this community.”  I think that might very well be your experience.  But, it’s not the experience of all us (it’s not been my experience).  We need to do a better job of welcoming everyone.  We need to do a better job of supporting one another.  We need to do a better job of being the community Christ has called us to be—a community defined by love for everyone (those who are here and those who are not here and those who have never been here).  If we’re going to be the community Christ commanded us to be then we’re going to have to spend more time together than one hour a week.

I want to let you know of two new opportunities you’ll have to grow in your relationship with each other…

STARTING TODAY! Coffee Hour

Join us for conversation, refreshments (not just coffee) and light snacks following worship in the Fellowship Hall (downstairs).  This is a great time for visitors and  members alike to learn more about each other and the community.

Community Pitch-in

On Sunday, February 3, 2013, all are invited to a community pitch-in (potluck) following worship.  The main dish, table service, and beverages will be provided.  Bring your favorite side-dish to share.

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I hope you’ll make it a point to come to these community events.  I know how exhausting it is to make your way in the world today.  It takes everything you’ve got…which is exactly why we need each other.  We were never meant to be alone.  We were created to be in community.  And, when we forgot what that was supposed to look like, Jesus gave us a new commandment that we might love one another and in so doing provide life, flavor, and light to an otherwise dead, dull, and dark world.

Let us love one another, “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more”[9] as we continue the journey together.

AMEN.


[1] Normism from the Episode “Tan ‘n Wash” as quoted at “Normisms (from ‘Cheers’)” <http://www.netjeff.com/humor/item.cgi?file=Normisms> Accessed January 17, 2013.

[2] From ¶219. Mutual Responsibility in The United Methodist Book of Discipline: 2012 (Nashville: United Methodist Publishing House, 2012).

[3] We see the body metaphor used by Paul in several of his letters.  C.f. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31, Romans 12:1-8, Ephesians 4:1-16, Colossians 3:12-17.

[4] Genesis 3:6, New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

[5] See John 13:34-35,

[6] John 13:34-35, NRSV.

[7] “A Theology of Discipleship: Loving God, Loving Neighbor” UMC.org <http://www.umc.org/site/c.lwL4KnN1LtH/b.2295449/k.6DAB/A_Theology_of_Discipleship.htm> Accessed January 18, 2013.

[8] Hebrews 10:24-25c, NRSV.

[9] Hebrews 10:24-25c, NRSV.

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